Thursday, May 4, 2017

Private Charles Wright Wills: September 30, 1861

Norfolk, September 30, 1861.

You think I'm doing pretty well in the number of my letters, don't you? I can afford to for you are the only correspondent I have. You musn't be surprised if you don't get letters from me so regularly after this, for if we start back in the country, as I expect we will, to intercept Price's retreat if Fremont whips him, we may be away from mails and such like for some time. If anything happens to me you will hear it just as quick as the news can be taken to you.

Since my last we have had some more fun here. Our company was out a few miles the other day to capture an old cuss we thought was peddling news from our camp down to Columbus. He had skedaddled though before we got to his house. We gobbled up all the loose plunder we could find lying around, it wasn't much, and marched back. We had a mighty good time on picket a few nights ago. It was confounded cold, bushwhackers or no bushwackers we concluded to have a fire. A couple of the boys volunteered to go back to camp for kettles and coffee, and we found lots of nice roasting ears in the field we were camped in, and a kind of pumpkin that ate very well after a little roast before the fire. Then there were splendid pawpaws, lots of nuts of all kinds which a little fire made ripe, and we sat and cooked and ate all night. I can eat, if necessary, 36 hours without intermission except for an occasional drink, and I drink nearly a half gallon of coffee per day.

Last night the Pekin company in our regiment were on picket and at 3 this morning they were attacked. Ten of them held their ground against 150 half-mounted and half-foot and finally made them scoot. It was a devilish brave thing. The Rebels left one dead and one so badly wounded that he’ll die to-night, and carried off two others dead and four badly wounded. A lot more were scratched. But one of our men was wounded, and that a flesh wound in the arm, that will hardly take him off duty. The firing roused us here in the camp and we thought from the noise that the longed fight had come at last for certain. I tell you it was funny when the long roll (we would not get out of bed without the long roll for a thousand cannons these cold nights) to see the boys scramble for shoes and accoutrements. There was some profanity. I have just been to see a poor devil that has blown half of his head off this afternoon to get rid of his troubles. A soldier. Don't know what he suicided for. We are messed off now, 15 in a tent, each tent's inmates cooking and eating by themselves.

SOURCE: Charles Wright Wills, Army Life of an Illinois Soldier, p. 33-4

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